A Guide to Lockout Tagout

What is Lockout Tagout?

Lockout tagout (LOTO) is a safety procedure that ensures that dangerous machinery and energy sources are properly shut off and are not started up unexpectedly while maintenance or service work is being completed. Activating the equipment or power source before these tasks are complete puts the person maintaining or servicing it at risk.

Why do we use Lockout Tagout?

If lockout tagout practices are not observed employees can be seriously injured or killed by the machinery or equipment they are working on or around. Such machinery includes, but isn’t limited to:

  • Generators
  • Lift Machinery
  • Switch Gear,
  • Distribution Cabinets
  • Devices such as compactors, which use hydraulics.
  • Swimming Pool Plant Equipment

Not all the above will apply to your school, but as I mentioned before, the above list is not comprehensive.

What is a Lockout Tagout Kit and How do I Use It?

Why carwashes must follow lockout and tagout procedures | Professional  Carwashing & Detailing
A typical Lockout Tagout Device

Lockout tagout kits are bundles of lockout tagout devices that can be used for multiple different lockout tagout procedures.  Usually they contain things like tags, padlocks, and other devices that help prevent injury or death, by energised or mechanical equipment.

Typically, a Lockout Tagout Kit, comprises of a device, with clips that prevent a switch from being operated. This works, by clipping the jaws together, through the hole on the switch itself. Then a padlock is connected to the base of the device, to prevent the switch from being operated. Finally, the tag warns others, that the device must not be used and also states who is authorised to remove the lock and the tag.

To summarize, Lockout Tagout is a device which can save lives and prevent injury and death, by locking out electrical and mechanical equipment, while maintenance is carried out. Never remove or cut off a lock, unless you are the person authorised to do so. If you are unsure, ask!

A Guide to Lift Emergencies

Many Schools have lifts these days and it is important that the lifts are regularly serviced and inspected, to prevent mechanical breakdown and to prolong the life of your lift. In my school, we have 4 passenger lifts and a larger Service Lift. There lifts are in various parts of the building and allow disabled people to access other floors in the building.

But what if the lift breaks down suddenly? All lifts these days, have alarms to call for help. Pressing the red alarm button in our lifts, connects the user to Switchboard during the day and the Sick Bay Nurses Station out of hours. Staff can then speak to the passengers and find out what the problem is. Normally, a lift breakdown is caused by a unplanned engagement of the emergency brake. This emergency break system, also prevents the lift from free-falling down the shaft and is controlled by a device called the Governor. The Governor uses. centrifugal force and moves a flyweights outward, pushing against a set of springs.  When spinning in this position, the hooked ends of the flyweights catch hold of ratchets mounted to a stationary cylinder surrounding the sheave. This works to stop the governor.

The governor cables are connected to the lift car via a movable actuator arm attached to a lever linkage. When the governor cables can move freely, the arm stays in the same position relative to the elevator car (it is held in place by tension springs). But when the governor sheave locks itself, the governor cables jerk the actuator arm up. This moves the lever linkage, which operates the brakes.

In addition, lifts have have electromagnetic brakes that engage when the car comes to a stop. The electromagnets actually keep the brakes in the open position, instead of closing them. With this design, the brakes will automatically clamp shut if the elevator loses power. Also, in the unlikely situation that a passenger forced the car doors open, the electromagnetic breaks would clamp shut, against the running rails either side of the lift and bring it to a halt. Elevators also have automatic braking systems near the top and the bottom of the elevator shaft. If the elevator car moves too far in either direction, the brake brings it to a stop.

If all else fails, and the elevator does fall down the shaft, there is one final safety measure that will probably save the passengers. The bottom of the shaft has a heavy-duty shock absorber system — typically a piston mounted in an oil-filled cylinder. The shock absorber works like a giant cushion to soften the elevator car’s landing.

Anyway, that’s enough of the safety systems and how they work. Lets look at an emergency situation, where the lift is trapped between floors. In this scenario, the lift has developed a fault and is stuck between the 12st and ground floor of J Block.. The passenger presses the lift alarm for 5 seconds, which telephones Switchboard or Sick Bay. Sick bay or Switchboard will either radio me, if I am on site, or phone me if off site. If there is a medical emergency or if the passenger is extremely distressed, Switchboard \ Sick Bay will call the Fire Brigade to rescue the passenger and inform me of this.

The 1st job I will do, is to get the shaft key and open the doors on the ground floor and look up, to see whee the lift is stuck. I will then try to speak to the person stuck in the lift and tell them that I am here and that we will lower the lift shortly. I then will slide the shaft doors shut and lock with the shaft key. Now, I need to walk up 5 flights of stairs, to walk 5 flights of stairs to the locked roof access door, (Or take the Service Lift to the 4th floor, and walk the remaining 1 flight.) Once on the roof, I can access the locked Lift Plant Room. You’re first priority is safety and due to this, you need to switch off the lift machinery, via the main Isolator Switch. It is important that you also “Lock out, Tag out” the switch, to ensure that the power is not switched back on accidently. I am going to do another guide on this, in due course.

If you have the correct training in lift lowering, please continue reading this section. If not, please skip to the next section.

First, we need to pull the lever on the wheel that the main lift cables are connected to. This will release the brakes on the lift car. Don’t worry, the Governor will stop the lift from falling! On the same wheel, pull out the handle, which is connected to the motor. You will need to slowly wind this handle anti-clockwise. It will be heavy, due to the weight of the lift, so wind slowly and the lift will move safely and easily. Keep winding until you reach the bottom of the shaft. Also remember to re-engage the brakes!

Now go back downstairs and open the doors to the lift shaft. The lift should now be in the right position and you should be able to prise the doors to the lift car open. If the lift is not in line with the floor, you should help the passenger to “alight” the lift. The person who has been stuck in the lift, may be shaken up a little. So, a friendly hug of reassurance might be needed.

Now you need to lock the shaft doors shut and place a “out of order” sign on the door.

Once the lift engineer has been and fixed the problem, remove the Lockout Tag Out device and switch the power back on to the lift. Don’t forget to write an incident report and file it correctly, depending on the procedures, set out by your School or Local Authority.

Testing Your Lift

Every day, I inspect our lifts, checking the doors open and close properly, that the alarm sounds outside the lifts, the selective floor control operates. (This needs a key to do this) the lights work and the fan is running. The kift will be taken out if use, anything is at fault (use the selective Floor Controls to do this) and an engineer called.

Remember: Safety First!

  • Lifts are dangerous, only attempt a lift rescue if you have had proper training of lowering a lift.
  • Always switch off the power to the lift and use Lockout Tagout, to prevent the power accidently being switched back on.
  • The lights, fan and alarm all have a battery backup on the roof of the lift car, so the lift won’t plunge into darkness!
  • Take care not to fall into the lift shaft, when looking up from the open doors!
  • Do not tell the passenger to force the car doors open. This could lead to injury or death and could also damage the lift car!
  • If you are unsure how to proceed, call a qualified Lift Engineer!
  • If the passenger is extremely distressed, dial 999 and ask for the Fire Brigade

A Guide to Cleaning School Toilets Part 2: (Changing Places Toilets)

What is a Changing Places Toilet?

A Changing Places Toilet, (or also known as a “Hygiene Room”) is a special toilet for completing hygiene tasks for those disabled people who cannot use a regular disabled toilet. These toilets have hoists, a changing table, a perinuclear toilet and other specialist equipment for disabled people. You know, going back 20 years, when I was in my last year at school, we had a Disabled Toilet, but it was far from the standards we see today.

So, Changing Places Toilets are important in schools, as regardless of if you are a Primary School, Secondary School or Special School, having clean facilities is important, especially if you are helping someone with their toileting needs. We have 2 Changes Places Toilets. We have one in B Block and one in Sick Bay on the 3rd floor of J Block. We’re having a 3rd installed in D Block, replacing the Disabled Changing Room for a Changing Places Toilet.

So, we have followed the procedure from my last tutorial, so what do we still have to do? While high dusting, clean the track for the hoist and make sure the hoist moves and can go up and down correctly. Also, lower the hoist and make sure to properly disinfect the entire hoist arm and the hoist hooks. I also clean the part of the hoist that raises and lowers a pupil and is why I always need my steps, when cleaning a Changing Places Toilet.

Then there is the changing table, This isn’t too hard to clean. I spray all surfaces with anti-bac and then wipe clean. While I am there, I also check the paper roll for the changing table and restock the dispensers with gloves and aprons, as needed.

We have toilets in our Hygiene Rooms, which wash and dry a user, so we have to be really careful when cleaning, due to how the toilet works. I usually spray anti-bac onto a cloth and wipe thoroughly. While I am here, I always test the alarm, by yanking the red cord and then reset it. Also, I make sure the red cord has not been tied up or is out of reach.

We have Clinical Waste Bins in our Hygiene Rooms and so they need special disposal. (They cannot go in the normal bin) So I change the bag, spray and wipe the inside and outside of the bin and take the clinical waste bag to the clinical waste bins in J Block. (We have a refuse Room on J Block, as we have a rubbish chute for normal rubbish and clinical waste on each floor. The normal rubbish goes into a big commercial bin, while the clinical waste goes into it’s own separate bin.

Once the floor is washed, soap and paper checked and the sink, hand dryer and soap dispensers are disinfected, that’s job done! Don’t forget to put a wet floor sign up before you leave!

A Guide to Cleaning School Toilets Part 1

Your School Toilets are an important part of your school. So, it is important that we keep our toilets clean and that, is what this guide will help you do.

Prep your Cleaning Cart

  • Bottles Antibacterial Spray for all surfaces
  • Bottles of Toilet Cleaner \ Maintainer
  • Urinal Cakes
  • Bin Bags
  • Paper Towels
  • Soap Refills
  • Toilet Rolls
  • Air Freshener Refills
  • Female Products (Where available)
  • Red Rubber Gloves or disposables
  • Eye Goggles
  • Red Microfibre Cloths
  • Duster On a Pole
  • Blue Paper Roll
  • Wet Floor Sign
  • Red Mop and Bucket, filled with disinfectant
  • Red handled broom or static mop
  • Red Dustpan and Brush
  • Toilet Brush
  • Door Stop

Check the Toilets are Empty

Our 1st job, is to check that the toilet is not occupied. Slightly open the door and clearly announce your presence. “Hello it’s Mr Smith, is anyone in here?” I usually do this twice. Next, prop the door open, using the door stop. Now place a wet floor sign over the doorway. If anyone enters the toilet, explain your cleaning the toilets and direct them to the next nearest facilities.

Spray… Spray… Spray!

Next, get your bottle of antibac and give all surfaces a good spray. This includes the toilet itself, all cubicles, the sinks, mirrors, towel dispensers, hand dryers (where fitted) vanity tops, (where fitted) door frames, bins, urinals, and dispensers etc. Next is litter picking, while we leave the chemicals to cure.

Pick up any litter, such as drinks bottles, paper towels, loo paper etc and put that into the bin in the toilet. Next, empty the bin and replace the liner, remembering to give the inside of the bin a wipe with your microfibre cloth and spray bottle. Now give the floor a good sweep, either with your broom or the static mop. Work from the furthest point from the door and work backward. Use the dustpan and brush to remove the swept dust from the floor and dispose of it in the bin bag on the back of your trolley. Now replace all the consumables. – Toilet rolls, paper towels, female hygiene products, soap, air freshener refills etc. Also, if you notice anything broken or not working, now is the time to jot it down.

High Dusting – Getting Rid of Dust From Above!

High dusting is important, as lots of dust gathers on surfaces, such as window sills, the tops of cubicles and in extractor fans. For this, I use my duster on a pole. This saves me time, as I do not need to get up on a step ladder to high dust. Make sure any cobwebs are also removed from pipework and round the ceiling.

I also high dust the Urinal Tank and pipes, while I am at it. Next, make sure to wipe down the cubical walls, frames and doors, using your micropore cloth. If your cloth gets dirty, put it back on your trolley and grab a new one. I keep a nappy sack for my dirty cloths, so I don’t cross contaminate.

Clean the Toilets \ Urinals

Now wipe the exterior of the toilet. Pay attention to the base of the bowl, around the drain pipe, the cistern and flush handle, the seat. (on both sides), The porcelain top, outer rim, seat hinges and of course the drain collar. Sometimes, this needs extra antibac spray, so feel free to spray again, as you wipe.

For the inside of the bowl, use a loo brush to push as much water out the pan as you can. Now clean inside the bowl, using toilet cleaner. I usually let the toilet cleaner soak for a few mins, so we shall come back to that shortly. (Don’t forget to leave the loo seat up!)

Give the Urinals a good scrub too, with toilet cleaner and the toilet brush. Pay attention to the base of the flush nozzle and the drain. If there are any bits of debris, (Especially around the drain) get those out by hand, (making sure you wear gloves, while doing so) and don’t forget to replace the urinal deodorizer \ urinal screen, (If appropriate) while you are at it.

If a toilet is blocked, attack it with your plunger! Get a good seal around drain on the inside and give it a good push, to dislodge the blockage. If that is not possible, report it, lock the cubical \ toilet out of use and place a out of order sign on the door. Make sure that you report the blockage as soon as possible. The same goes for sinks and urinals too.

Cleaning the Sink, Mirrors and Tiles.

Spray antibac onto a microfibre cloth and give the entire sink a good going over, paying special attention to the taps, the overflow and the outlet. Next, clean the vanity top and the tiles the same way. For the mirror, spray glass cleaner onto the surface and use a blue paper towel to wipe downwards. This will give you a smear free finish.

Back to the Toilets and the metal monstrosities we call the “Trough Urinals!”

Now that the toilet cleaner has soaked for a bit, get your loo brush and give the toilet a good scrub, paying special attention to the waterline and under the rim. Once cleaned, give the toilet a flush and lower the seat. Don’t forget to disinfect the outside of Sanitary Bins while you are at it!

Give the floor a good moppin’

Wash the floor, using a mop and bucket, working from the far corner, working in a figure of 8 pattern. When it comes to the cubicle, make sure that sanitary bins are moved , as you mop. Also move the litter bin, so you can mop underneath it.

Check your work

Check that everything is ship shape and go back to fix any issues. Now remove any cleaning items used. Leave the wet floor sign in situ, until the floor is dry and return your trolley to your cleaning store.

In Part 2, we will look at cleaning a Hygiene Room, also known as as a Changing Places Toilet. These facilities need a higher level of cleaning, which we will go into next time.

J Block Power has Been Restored!

Finally, the power issues in J Block have been fixed. The problem was a faulty cable, which was a little more complex than we thought. Unfortunately, we needed to switch off the supply to the 2nd floor, before the Electricians could replace the cable. This caused us some chaos, as Foxes and the Oaks and Acorns unit, as we had to shut the power off, so that a new cable could be fed from the 3rd floor Distribution Cabinet to the 2nd floor.

We sadly had to wait until after 10pm, to schedule a window to turn off the 2nd floor power. Thankfully, by 10, the kids were in bed and staff were able to work by torch light, while we replaced the cable. As you can see, the cable is damaged and is a fire risk and so, it had to be replaced ASAP.

Thankfully, the circuit breaker on the 2nd floor tripped, preventing power energising the damaged cable. The Electricians were able to drop a new piece of cable down the conduit and connect that to the 2nd floor distribution panel. So, I’ve just got home, after dealing with the work that needed doing and returning the battery lights back to my store room on the Lower Ground Floor. I am exhausted, Kyle is already in bed, so I think I shall join him. Goodnight all 🙂

By the way, I think my next Guide will be covering Electrical Safety and that will be posted over the weekend.

Partial Power Outage in J Block!

For some reason, the 3rd and 4th floor of J Block have completely lost power. This could be caused by a number of things and I am currently on site investigating the problem. The issue seems to be coming from a Distribution Cupboard on the 3rd floor, outside Sick Bay and seems to be connected with the feeder cable between the 2nd and 3rd floor. However, I cannot reset the breaker on the distribution board, meaning that there is a problem somewhere.

A quick diagram of the Electrical Distribution from the 2nd 3rd and 4th floor and from the rooftop Plant Rooms

I’ve got Electricians here trying to sort the problem out, however, I have had to take battery powered Halogen Work Lights up to Sick Bay, which is our School’s Medical Centre, Sick Bay runs 24\7 so we need to keep the lights on for staff to work. They are doing well up in Sick Bay, as most medical equipment runs on batteries and for the couple of kids up there who rely on Medical Oxygen, are using cylinders instead of the mains oxygen, which is connected pipework, that connects to a manifold and then several cylinders of oxygen. As the 4th floor contains offices, the loss of power will not be too much of a concern tonight.

Update: The Electricians have said the fault is caused by a damaged cable, which they are going to replace. However, they will need to work on a “live system”, as we cannot really switch off the entire supply to the 2nd floor. This means that the electricians will have to take extra care, while replacing the wiring in the cabinet, Hopefully, in 45 minutes, the power will be restored and I can go back home. I was in the bath, when I got the call and had to quickly dry off, get dressed and drive back to work, to deal with the incident.

A Guide to Fire Alarm Testing

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, requires that all businesses, blocks of flats and public buildings, (that have a fire alarm system) to be tested on a weekly basis. This to make sure that all the components are working properly.

For this, you will need to have your Fire Alarm Log Book at hand, to record the test, the date and the time the date the test was carried out and competent the person who has carried out the test. You will also need the key \ or the password for your Fire Alarm Panel and the test key for your Fire Alarm Call Points. If your alarm is connected to a ARC, (Alarm Receiving Centre) you will need to call them, to inform them of the test. Don’t forget to ring them back after the test has been conducted.

So lets perform the test.

  • Make sure everyone in the building is aware of the fire alarm test. We do ours at 8.45, every Wednesday morning, for the main school and 9am for the Residential Block. I use our Telephone System to make a PA Announcement, informing everyone that a fire alarm test is about to be carried out. I then make another announcement, once I have completed the test.
  • Put the key into the alarm panel and turn it, to activate Level 2 Access. (If not, you will need the password, to access Level 2 Mode.
  • Go to a Manual Call Point and insert the key into the hole at the bottom. This will drop the glass slightly and sound the alarm. (You need to do a different Call Point each week)
  • Go back to the Fire Alarm Panel and press Silence, followed by Reset.
  • While the panel is still in Level 2, press the evacuate button and make sure the sounders \ bells are activated.
  • Press the silence button, followed by reset.
  • Document the test results in the Fire Alarm Log Book
  • Turn and remove the key from the panel. (If appropriate)
  • Contact the ARC and inform them that you have completed the test. (If appropriate)

And that’s how a Fire Alarm Test is carried out 🙂

A Guide to Fire Extinguishers

Fire Extinguishers, where would we be without them? They are an important piece of Health and Safety equipment, to keep our schools, homes businesses and vehicles safe. But what are the different types and what are they used for? In this guide, I will take you through each category extinguisher, what’s in it and what it is used for.

Let’s start with the basics. A Fire Extinguisher is basically a canister, which contains the extinguishing agent in one capsule and either compressed air or another compressed gas, such as Nitrogen in another capsule. (Except C02) Once you have removed the safety tag, pulled the pin and squeezed the handles, the compressed gas or air, will spray the extinguishing agent at high pressure, through the nozzle on the neck of the extinguisher.

OK, now we know how they work, let’s look at the different types of extinguisher.

Water

Water Fire Extinguishers are just that… More or less, the same water that comes from the tap. Water cools burning material and is very effective against fires in furniture, fabrics, etc. (including deep-seated fires). Water-based extinguishers cannot be used safely on energized electrical fires or flammable liquid fires.

These extinguishers are used on organic materials, such as wood, paper and fabrics.

Powder

This is a powder-based agent that extinguishes by separating the four parts of the fire tetrahedron. It prevents the chemical reactions involving heat, fuel, and oxygen, thus extinguishing the fire. During combustion, the fuel breaks down into free radicals, which are highly reactive fragments of molecules that react with oxygen. The substances in dry chemical extinguishers can stop this process.

These extinguishers are used on organic materials, such as fabrics, paper and wood) paints, flammable gasses, (EG: Butane and Methane) flammable materials, such as Magnesium or Lithium and electrical equipment that is not energised.

Foam

Foam Extinguishers are applied to fuel fires as either an aspirated (mixed and expanded with air in a branch pipe) or non aspirated form to create a frothy blanket or seal over the fuel, preventing oxygen reaching it. Unlike powder, foam can be used to progressively extinguish fires without flashback and also cannot be inhaled, thus preventing breathing difficulties if breathed in.

These extinguishers are used on organic materials (wood, paper and fabrics) only

Carbon Dioxide (C02)

These extinguish fire by displacing oxygen CO2 or inert gases), removing heat from the combustion zone They are referred to as clean agents because they do not leave any residue after discharge, which is ideal for protecting sensitive electronics, aircraft, armored vehicles and archival storage, museums, and valuable documents. This is often seen in Server Rooms, Plant Rooms and other areas, where there is sensitive equipment. It is normally connected to a Fire Suppression System.

The extinguisher discharge the clean agent through and hose and out through a horn at the end of the hose. Because CO2 is extremely cold, users are told not to hold the horn, when discharging.

These extinguishers can be used on flammable liquids and energised electrical fires.

Wet Chemical

These extinguishers are more often than none, seen in Commercial Kitchens, on as Fire Bottles on Diesel Trains. (On the underside of the train)

Wet chemical (Potassium Acetate, Potassium Carbonate, or Potassium Citrate, extinguishes the fire by forming an air-excluding soapy foam blanket over the burning oil through the chemical process of saponification (a base reacting with a fat to form a soap) and by the water content cooling the oil below its ignition temperature.

Sometimes, the extinguishers may be in the form of a Fire Bottle, for automatic or manual discharge. This is common where there are Deep Fat Fryers in a Commercial Kitchen, (Activated, by pulling the pin out of it’s casing) or mounted to the Chassis of a Diesel Train, which can be automatically discharged by the Train Management System, or manually activated by pulling a pin. This type of equipment can be classed as Fire Suppression, which is a type of sprinkler system, which uses a wet or dry chemical, to extinguish a fire.

These extinguishers can be used on organic materials and cooking oils.

How to use an extinguisher

Fire extinguishers should only be used if the fire is small and that it will not put YOU or anyone else in IMMEDIATE DANGER. If you don’t feel that you can tackle the fire yourself, or there is a lot of smoke, Evacuate the building and call the Fire Brigade, by dialing 999.

All extinguisher have the same operating instructions, using the “P.A.S.S Protocol”.

  • Pull out the Pin that is locking the handles
  • Aim at the base of the fire. (This is where the fire is at it’s hottest.)
  • Squeeze the handles
  • Sweep side to side

The difference between Wet and and Dry Risers

There is one main difference between a Wet and a Dry Riser. One is connected to the mains water supply and is constantly kept at Mains Pressure (Wet Riser) and the other is a empty tank, which is connected by a hose, to a Fire Engine or to a Fire Hydrant.

All Risers have the same principle, regardless if they are wet or dry. The system contains a pipe, which runs up the inside of the building. In most buildings, the connection valve is kept in a cupboard, which requires a Firefighter to break the glass door, to connect the hose. Then, the valve is turned and water will fill the hose. At the very top of the building, there is a Air Valve, to release any air, which has got in the system and could cause a airlock. This could prevent the Riser from working properly.

Wet and dry risers - Vapourmist Solutions
A typical Wet Riser. Image courtesy of Vapour Mist. https://www.vapourmist.co.uk/

Wet Risers require mains pressure to work and are normally connected to the mains water, which is fed from the nearest Fire Hydrant. In some buildings, there is a water tank present, which the Wet Riser feeds from. Connecting your Wet Riser to the domestic Water Supply is not practical, as the dimensions of the pipe are too small, to allow enough water to flow through.,

What Is A Dry Riser? | Elite Fire Protection Ltd
A typical Dry Riser. Image Courtesy of Elite Fire Protevtion (www.elitefire.co.uk)

Dry Risers on the other hand, do not require connected to the main supply. However, there may be a nearby Fire Hydrant, which can be connected to the inlet, by Fire Fighters. If there is no hydrant near by, Fire Fighters can connect the other end of the hose to the Fire Engine and use stored water, from the tank on the Fire Engine itself.

In my school, we have mainly Dry Risers, but there are Wet Risers in D Block, which is where the Gym, Swimming Pool, Drama Studio and Dance Studio are.

Before we conclude, I will mention that Fire Sprinkler Systems are a form of Wet Riser, as the system is always pressurized and is activated when the heat builds to a dangerous level, which causes the vapour in the glass plug (Which is connected to the sprinkler head) to evaporate. This causes the plug to shatter, allowing water to flow.

Dry Systems are usually used in Fire Suppression Systems, in Server Rooms and Plant Rooms. This system is similar, except the system is not pressurised and there is no plug on these systems. Once the system detects rising smoke, the system switches off any ventilation systems, sounds an alarm and opens a valve, which allows the dry agent to flow through the sprinklers, at high pressure.

A Guide to Hazchem Symbols

Hazchem symbols give an indication of the hazard you may find in cleaning products, you use on a day to day basis. They can warn us about various hazards, such as flammable chemicals, chemicals which may explode if subjected to heat or chemicals which are harmful to the environment. When ever using chemicals, you must always wear the correct PPE. (Personal Protective Equipment)

In this guide, we will look at the symbols and what hazard they present.

Flammable

the Flammable Hazchem Symbol is used for products that may easily catch fire, when exposed to heat or a naked flame. Items that may be flammable include: Aerosol Canned Polish, etc. These chemicals need to be kept in a cool and dry environment, away from heat sources and naked flames. Petrol and Diesel are a an example of a chemical which catches fire very easily. It must be stored properly and away from naked flames or electrical equipment.

Corrosive

Some chemicals are corrosive to the skin and can cause chemical burns. A good example of this is the Acid Based Toilet Maintainer we use on our toilets and urinals. The chemical uses Hydrochloric Acid to burn away limescale. Hydrochloric Acid can burn the skin and cause lasting damage. It can also cause blindness, if you get it in your eyes. It’s strong stuff, so the correct PPE must be worn.

Toxic to the Environment

Chemicals that are toxic to the environment, can cause long term ecological damage, if it enters the ground or is allowed to enter a water passage, without being diluted first. Oils and Petrol are a couple of good examples of chemicals cannot be put down the drain, even if diluted. They require specialist disposal at a specialist facility. Asbestos is another substance that is toxic to the environment.

Respiratory Sensitizer

I mentioned Asbestos above and that it is dangerous to the environment. It is also a Respiratory Sensitizer and can cause long term damage to your lungs.You only need to inhale micro particles for it to cause problems. Thankfully, the effects are not immediate, but may appear in later years.

Explosive

I don’t think I need to go into detail on chemicals that are explosive, if exposed to fire (and or) high levels of heat. However, chemicals in aerosol cans are likely to explode if exposed to high heat or are punctured.

Oxidising

Oxidising products may cause or intensify fire. Oxidising materials can also cause explosions; therefore, they should be treated as flammable. Oxygen tanks and some cleaners, such as Ammonia and turpentine, will bear this symbol.

Flammable Gas

Flammable gasses, such as Butane, will easily catch fire and also may explode, if allowed to heat to a high temperature. Butane should be stored in it’s own cage, well away from the buildings if possible and smoking and naked flames must not be used in the area where the cylinders are stored.

Under Pressure (Compressed Gasses)

Containers bearing this symbol are pressurised, such as fire extinguishers and gas canisters. They contain gases that can explode if heated. It also applies to products containing refrigerated gases, which can cause serious cryogenic burns when exposed to skin.

Irritant

Chemicals that are irritant, may cause itching to skin, It may also irritate the eyes, should the chemical is allowed to get in your eyes.

Toxic

Chemicals that are toxic, may cause severe illness (or even death) if swallowed or allowed to get into your bloodstream. Chemicals that are toxic, may include Rat Poison, Bleach, Caustic Soda, Acids, etc. These chemicals can cause a severe risk to your life or may cause severe and irreversible damage to your body.

So next time you are about to do a cleaning task, look at the bottle of the chemical you are using and check for the above Hazchem Symbols. You should also make sure you read the COSHH Data Sheets, to check if there are any special precautions you need to take, when using chemicals. Ultimately, you need to make sure that you wear the correct PPE at all times, when using chemicals and you must ALWAYS follow the instructions on the bottle \ COSHH Data Sheets.

A Guide to PPE

PPE, stands for Personal Protective Equipment and can be applied to many roles in the workplace. For instance, in the kitchen, PPE may include Chefs Whites or an apron, a hat or a hair net. The PPE is designed to protect you from injury or from getting messy. As a Site Manager, I wear PPE on a daily basis. My Steel Toe Capped Boots is the piece of PPE I wear the most.

So let’s look at PPE you may be using on a daily basis. (Please note, the below items are not a complete list of required PPE.

Cleaning PPE

  • Rubber or disposable gloves. (Rubber Gloves should be the correct color code)
  • A Tabard or Apron
  • Goggles
  • Comfortable fitting clothing
  • Flat comfortable shoes

Kitchen PPE

  • Chefs Whites \ Apron
  • Disposable Gloves for handling food
  • Hair net or hat
  • Flat comfortable shoes

Gardening PPE

  • Comfortable loose fitting clothing
  • Flat Comfortable shoes
  • Goggles for use with with lawn mowers and strimmers
  • Thick Gardening Gloves

PPE In Plant Rooms

  • Comfortable loose fitting clothing
  • Flat Comfortable shoes
  • A Hard Hat
  • Gloves for working with hot pipework or valves

PPE for use with Tools

  • Comfortable loose fitting clothing
  • Thick gloves
  • Goggles
  • Steel Toe Capped Boots

PPE is a legal requirement, under the 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act. Your School insurance will not cover you, if you do not use appropriate PPE at work. If you are not sure what PPE to use, please speak to your School Headteacher or your Local Council’s Health and Safety Department for advice.